La Verne came away from its season opener with a tough loss against the No. 15 ranked NAIA Azusa Pacific Cougars at Citrus College, 65-14.
The Cougars came out fierce and ready to play. APU scored on the second drive of the game, before quickly adding another score.
The Leopards answered back with a kickoff return for a touchdown and a two-point conversion. That 85 yard kickoff return for a score by Allen Daniels would be the last joyous moment that the La Verne faithful had for a while.
Midway through the fourth quarter, senior quarterback Thomas Arguello scrambled into the end zone for a rushing touchdown from nine yards out – his first of the year.
“Obviously he’s not Mike Vick but he’s definitely one of the best rushers on the field,” said Michael Sanchez, senior marketing major at Cal State Fullerton.
In between the first and second touchdowns for La Verne, APU dominated and seemed to score at will, earning a total of 556 yards offense on the game.
The Cougars scored six touchdowns and one field goal in between the Leopards’ two touchdowns.
La Verne seemed to struggle putting scoring drives together. They routinely failed to convert on third and fourth downs, causing them to punt the ball or turn the ball over on downs. The Leopards went 6 for 21 on third and fourth down chances while APU went 4 for 9.
Another very important reason why La Verne struggled was red zone opportunities. APU managed to get to the red zone 10 times where they converted every time. The Leopards only got to the red zone twice and scored once.
“It looks like its going to be a long season for La Verne,” spectator Danny Mendoza said.
There were some bright spots in the game for La Verne.
Junior running back Erek Brown and Arguello stood out and showed spectators that they were real ball players. Brown gained 37 yards on four attempts. Arguello scrambled for 66 yards and threw for an additional 113. Arguello only completed half of his 32 passes.
Many of those failed completions should fall on the hands of the Leopard receivers instead of the senior quarterback, who played like a seasoned veteran.
“The O-line needs to do a better job of protecting the quarterback and the receivers need to make the easy catches,” APU junior Trenton Titus said.
The Leopard football team has a long way to go if it wants to be competitive in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
La Verne has a solid running back and a good quarterback already in place. The team needs to work on tightening up its defense. Converting their third and fourth downs will also be key in order to push for a playoff spot at the end of the season.
The season opener is only one game and there is plenty of time to improve and push for that playoff berth.
La Verne football travels north to Oregon on Sept. 24, where it will face the No. 6 ranked NAIA Linfield Wildcats.
Kevin Parada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.